Gov’t vow: Power back in Visayas by Christmas
PALO, Leyte—Let there be light.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla on Monday vowed to restore power in the Visayas on Christmas Eve, or 36 days from now.
The self-imposed deadline is about five months ahead of the initial assessment of the energy department that the restoration of the distribution grid in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Visayas would take at least half a year.
Petilla made this rather startling promise to play Santa Claus of sorts to millions of households that have to endure total darkness at night following the onslaught of Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”).
When reporters chanced upon him here in his hometown as he distributed relief with President Aquino, he said it would not be easy for typhoon survivors to spend Christmas in the dark.
“It’s hard to celebrate Christmas without electricity,” he said. “My point here is at least during Christmas you’ll have electricity … because the first sign of hope … is always electricity. So that’s what we’ll strive hard to achieve.”
But he qualified his statement that individual homes would have to fix their own electrical wiring. “We’ll energize the town and barangays (villages) around the town. But for the remote barangays, that will add another time.”
Petilla said he was making this fearless forecast to “satisfy the public (and) to show them that I am sincere and I will do my best.”
Petilla had an aerial survey of Yolanda’s devastation on Nov. 9, a day after ferocious winds and tsunami-like storm surges toppled power lines, knocked off communications installations and killed more than 3,700 people.
He initially found it “impossible” to restore power to towns hard-hit by Yolanda by the end of the year because almost 160 towers and over 1,000 power poles were badly damaged.
But the much-earlier deadline appeared feasible following an inventory of the assets of the power sector: available materials for repair and rehabilitation vis-à-vis the extent of Yolanda’s damage to the power grid and its distribution lines in the Visayas.
Lots of volunteers
With roads cleared of obstructions, “the biggest help to us is the manpower, and we have a lot of volunteers from other (electric) cooperatives that came forward, making (it possible) to advance (the completion target),” he said.
He expected more volunteers—more than the 215 crews that restored Bohol province after the earthquake—to help in achieving the Dec. 24 target.
“So we’ll try these resources we’ve already counted and it is actually very possible to hit Dec. 24,” he said.
Power officials earlier wanted to complete the restoration work by January 2014, but Petilla told them, “No, let’s try to make it on Dec. 24.”
He said the Christmas deadline had no “if” because the country was not expecting any more typhoons by the time.
“So we’re not hoping that there would be hitches,” he said.
National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) has reported that by Dec. 9, all power towers would be operational.
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